My current go-to rifle is a Sako 75 Hunter, chambered in 30-06. I bought the rifle new in 2002 after selling a Colt Delta Elite (Noooooo!!!), and getting my tax refund. Atop it sits a 3.5-10×42 Leupold Vari-X 3.
The overall impression the rifle gives is that it is made of quality materials, machined very cleanly, and finished to an impressive degree, especially considering some of the crap that is on the market today. Instead of a short vs. long action type setup, Sako has five different action sizes, so that the receiver is a better fit to the cartridge. The 30-06 action is labeled “IV” (that means “4” for those educated in public schools).
The bolt has 3 locking lugs, which makes for a shorter, 60° bolt lift. It’s made very well, very precisely, and it’s smoooooth. Really smooth. It’s a total joy to behold. It’s a push feed system (go ahead and scoff, you controlled round feed snobs 🙂 )
The trigger has no take up and minimal overtravel. It’s the proverbial glass rod, breaking right at about 3 pounds. The trigger is serrated, and not as wide as the Remington 700 trigger, which has always reminded me of a nasty, long fingernail.
The feeding system is a 5 round staggered column detachable box magazine. It’s very well made (of steel, no less). It clicks nicely into place and feeds smoothly and unfailingly. It’s well long enough to allow the bullet I’m currently using to be seated into the lands. It’s also expensive, meaning I only have 1 at the moment. Yes, I understand that kind of defeats the purpose of a detachable mag.
The rifle just sat for a while. I was pursuing semi-auto interests and pistols. Somewhere along the line I fell in love with bolt guns. After shooting a few of them, I came to the conclusion that the best one is the one I had all along.
I also shoot a Remington 700 frequently. That rifle has been blueprinted, pillar bedded, has a McMillan stock, and shoots sub-half moa (maybe there is a more elegant wording I could have used). The Sako hasn’t beat it’s accuracy, but at this point it’s not configured to. Comparing the actions only, the Rem is like a Ford Focus, while the Sako is like some nice car I can’t afford to even know enough about. The Rem action, having been trued, is smooth, but the Sako is the definition of precision butter when cycled. I just lost you here, huh?
Here’s a good way to convey the Sako’s superiority over the Remington: the bottom metal. The stock bottom metal on a 700 feels like it’s made from tin melted down from woks confiscated from Chinese peasants and cast immediately into the bottom metal at a government factory staffed by blind workers (forced child labor, no less) with severed limbs. The Sako’s bottom metal is steel, and I think it’s milled into shape by magic elves. There.
Made by elves
Sako has ceased production of this beauty in favor of a newer model, the 85, which is similar in most respects, but has a slightly different feeding system. They market it as a quasi-controlled round feed. I don’t understand that, one would think that it’s either controlled round feed or not, but I don’t really care as long as it feeds. If push feed works for USMC Scout Snipers, it’s probably adequate for most shooters. Sako also screwed up the magazine system in my opinion. It now requires that the magazine be pushed in before it can be removed. The other downside of the 85 is an unnecessary key-locking system which, to be fair, was introduced in the middle of the production of the 75. I was lucky enough to not need a key to start my rifle.
I put a USGI surplus cotton web sling on the rifle. I would like something nicer, like a TAB, Tactical Intervention, or Mountain Shooter, but they’re expensive. I would rather not have metal sling hardware of the USGI sling that close to my #1, but I already had the sling and it will gett’r done.
The complete system weighs in at approximately 8.4 lbs. Too heavy for some, too light for others. Pretty good for me.
There isn’t a lot to complain about, but I wish the grip was a tad more vertical, and just a bit closer to the trigger (I have small hands and smell like cabbage). I could also live with a bit heavier barrel, but not much heavier. The receiver also uses a proprietary dovetail system for sight mounting, which in theory is cool, but in practice is pretty limiting. Someday I may upgrade to a McMillan or Manners composite stock. I would also like to upgrade the scope to something with a front focal plane mil reticle with 0.1 mil knob adjustments. I already have a 20 moa base waiting…
The other major issue with it has been the accuracy. These things are supposed to be sub-minute guns. What used to happen was that the first shot would be about 3 moa high, then they would all be touching. After pulling my hair out for a while, I acquired a torque wrench. Soon after I discovered that there was about 3 inch lbs. of torque on the action screws. I tightened them up to 30 inch lbs (would have gone to 65, but not with a wood stock). The cold bore is no longer so high, but I’m not getting spectacular accuracy either.
This 5 shot group was fired from 100 yards during load testing using a bipod and rear bag. This is the best the rifle and I have been able to do so far.
Even with the accuracy being lackluster at the moment, there’s just something about this rifle. I like the action a lot. It has a lot of promise. I know that “only accurate rifles are interesting”, but I’d like to see where this journey takes me. If it leads to a bedding job or a new barrel, so be it. It’s the only bolt gun I own at the moment that doesn’t weigh over 15 lbs.
I was just able to begin hand loading for this rifle after borrowing some dies. Redding dies are in the cards, eventually, but they’re expensive (see a pattern emerging?- yes I have a decent job, but the monthly budget seems to run out before the gun category comes up). The load I’m working up seems to be heading in the direction of a Lapua D46 FMJ 185 grain match bullet in Winchester brass over Vihtavouri N150 and a Winchester standard rifle primer seated for a ~.008 jump into the rifling with a muzzle velocity of approximately 2725 fps.